Fernando Alonso has cooled speculation linking him with a possible off-season move to Mercedes. The two-time world champion has been mentioned in connection with a potential reunion with former rival Lewis Hamilton after Nico Rosberg stunned Formula One with his decision to retire just five days after sealing a maiden world championship title in Abu Dhabi earlier this month.
Alonso is contracted to McLaren-Honda until the end of next season, and many might consider it a risk to reunite the Spaniard with Hamilton after their previously frosty relationship contributed to his initial exit from McLaren in 2007. However, head of Mercedes-Benz motorsport Toto Wolff confirmed that he was among the names being considered to replace Rosberg.
"You have to consider Fernando," he told Sky Sports. "He is a driver I respect a lot. He combines talent, speed and experience. It's all there. But he is in a contract with McLaren-Honda at the moment and we just need to weigh all the other options up."
Alonso's manager, Flavio Briatore, recently told Gazzetta dello Sport that his client would honour that current deal and new McLaren chief executive Zak Brown subsequently claimed that he was currently "very happy".
Speaking on his future during a visit to the McLaren Technology Centre (MTC) in Woking on Tuesday (13 December), the 35-year-old reaffirmed his commitment to a team that will undergo a major leadership shift this winter after Ron Dennis' lengthy tenure as chairman and chief executive of McLaren Group came to an acrimonious end. Stoffel Vandoorne was confirmed as Button's successor in September.
"I believe in this project," Alonso told members of the team in Surrey. "I'm committed and I want to be world champion with McLaren-Honda. That's my only goal."
Mercedes protege Pascal Wehrlein was initially considered a slight favourite to fill the seat vacated by Rosberg after an encouraging debut season with Banbury-based Manor Racing, but the BBC reported on Sunday that Valtteri Bottas is the preferred choice. However, they also claimed that Williams have already rejected an offer to release the Finn, who counts former Williams executive director Wolff among his current management group, from his contract.
The deal is said to have included a substantial reduction in their engine bill as well as the choice of Wehrlein as a replacement for Bottas. Williams are already set to roll out one inexperienced driver in 2017 as Canadian teenager Lance Stroll arrives to replace Felipe Massa, who has now called time on his 14-year F1 career.